The dreaded D-word. Most of us military spouses are going to get hit with the d-word at some point, and most likely more than once. You come to expect it, maybe even be okay with it. But no matter if it’s your first or fifth, it never gets easier. You do, however, learn how to cope. And that’s what I’m here to talk about.
My husband and I were married for 2 years when he left for his first deployment to Iraq in 2009. I wasn’t sure what to expect, and I didn’t know many people who had gone through one. I was apprehensive but also spent most of my time in denial. But finally the day arrived and I realized you have to handle a deployment the way you do just about anything else: one day at a time. That year taught me so much, and as I gear up for our second one, I wanted to write this to remind myself of that as well as encourage anyone else who may be facing their first one.
First of all, I learned that the weeks leading up to deployment are much worse than the first few weeks of deployment. Seriously. As terrible as this sounds, I got to the point where I just wanted him to leave already, and he was feeling the same way. He was also becoming a little detached, as his own method of coping. Also, everything we did and talked about and everything he did at work was in the light of the impending deployment, and you just get worn out with it. The anticipation is horrible. Now that I know this, I am determined to handle it better this time around. Instead of getting into a massive fight a few days before he leaves because I finally had a meltdown and expected him to just KNOW that I was upset about him leaving (don’t you love how we always want our guys to be mind-readers, ladies? Lol), I’m going to know that these emotions happen and tell him when I am feeling overwhelmed and needing him to love me and tell me it’s going to be okay.
Then I learned how important it was to have a good support system, and for me that included other military spouses (as well as my church, my family, and other friends). I know everyone is different, but for me, I needed friends who were going through the exact same thing I was. Don’t avoid friendships with other military wives because you’re afraid of “the crazies.” Yes, they’re out there, and you’ll probably attract one every now and then, but chalk it up as a good story and move on. =) My deployment buddies, or “battle buddies” as we called ourselves, kept me sane and I don’t know what I would’ve done without them! We had dinner together, watched favorite TV shows together, celebrated each other’s birthdays, attended gym classes (one of my buddies joined me at a 5:15am spin class several days a week!), went on mini road trips, assisted each other with house projects, planned monthly karaoke bashes, etc. etc. We were there for each other through thick and thin, no matter what. It’s just as important for you to have battle buddies as it is for your husband!
I learned to keep busy. I determined early on that I would never spend a deployment moping at home and obsessing over missing my husband. Besides the fact that I worked full time, I also kept my social calendar so full that the weeks passed by in a blur. I volunteered for my Family Readiness Group, helped lead a ministry at church, and spent mass amounts of time with my friends. You know you’re staying busy enough when you find yourself begging for a night at home all alone, just to wear ugly pajamas and watch TV!
I learned to avoid toxic people. That’s good in any situation, but it’s especially important during a deployment. It isn’t good to be around people who are constantly focused on the negative and try to drag you down with them.
I learned to let myself cry and have a bad day if I needed it. There is no way you’re going to be able to feel strong every day of a deployment, and there’s no shame in that. Some mornings I would just wake up in the dumps, and nothing I did could shake it off. Instead of fighting it, I’d let myself have a good cry if that was what I felt I needed. But the next morning I’d get up and go on. I knew that if I kept trying to keep up a brave front 24/7, eventually I’d explode and the mess would be much worse than if I just let myself have a bad day every now and then.
There is a lot more I could say, but those are the main things and what I like to share with others when they ask for advice. You will never regret the determination to make a deployment a positive experience instead of a negative one. And no matter what, homecoming day makes everything worth it!
Sarah blogs at My Life, Army Style where her Bio reads: Christian. Proud Army wife. Loving fur-parent to two adorable kitties. Loyal friend. Cooking addict. Fitness enthusiast. Lover of wine. Adventurous. Coffee snob. Quiet but fun-loving. Reader. Procrastinator. Sweets devotee.
Be sure to check out the other posts in this series! You can view them under the Deployment Series tab, or by clicking HERE